I work in a neurologist’s office. My doctor is a specialist who analyzes body operations according to the neurological standpoint. This doctor further uses electrical analysis to decide what nerves are having problems and what diagnoses are related to the problems presenting. This doctor went to college, then medical school, then residency, then fellowship. I would placed in the realm of highly skilled. What is the medical profession? Back in the 80’s, the federal government decided that when people needed help, it was up to the medical professionals to provide that help – without being paid. After all, when people need help, why should we worry about such a thing as compensation? This is where the free ER visits originated and by the way, where the removal of ER’s in California originated. It is also where the philosophy of “your labor belongs to me” originated as well. We have patients who have the full expectation that our medical services should be free of charge. After all, their health matters, doesn’t it? Why should we make money off of their health? Well, when was the last time someone went into a restaurant and told them that their food was necessary for life, and therefore should be free of charge? In the end, the cost of the services is compensation for the time of the server. That is the bottom line. A person pays for the painter because that person spent their time and skill applying a coating in a pleasing fashion. A person pays the restaurant as they spent their time and skill cooking the meal. A person pays at the gas pump as that business – a little less directly – provides the result of time and effort of individuals to remove the fuel from the ground and turn it into a source of usable power.
There are three reasons for a person to enter into medicine. There are plenty more, but here are a few obvious ones at the start. My doctor mentioned getting into neurology because it was difficult. There was a challenge in ascertaining neurological problems by looking at squiggly lines and numerical results of a needle placed in a muscle. Treatments for neurological issues are not like an antibiotic which removes the bacteria and the person is “cured.” We tend towards long-term treatments to make the symptoms of whatever issue more tolerable. The problem will never be removed. Another possibility of entering the profession is to help people. There is a good feeling to provide decent information and have the person utilize it for their betterment. Lastly, there is the income related to utilizing one’s skills. Doctors maintain a good income. Similar to the professional athletes, the reason for the higher income is that fewer individuals can do the task. It is simply a notation of the marketplace, that those professions having skills that fewer individuals can do, allow incomes higher than the normal level.
Here we get to the nub of the idea. Medicine is a business. We, in the business, spend our time learning skills and giving our time in anticipation of receiving income related to our expenditures. We also have bills. Just because we have chosen a “helping profession” doesn’t mean our time is less valuable. As the market dictates, certain professions have a higher than average income as the skills to be in that profession are not as prevalent. Instead of those who look at us and think “rich doc”, maybe they should look and say “12 years of school”. I had an acquaintance who finished up a MD PHD by the age of 29. There was still residence and fellowship to go. This person was in a meeting with a loan officer for a mortgage. The mortgage officer asked about a job and my acquaintance stated she had nothing but little assistant jobs here an there. The officer then asked about school and my acquaintance asked about college, or later training. The officer stated everything, going back to kindergarten. My acquaintance stated 24 years. Let that sink in for a moment. Realize that more training was going to begin as well. How much of this doctor’s time should be free for the patient? Wasn’t the purpose of all that training to become skilled in the anticipation of helping people and being compensated for that time? Just like a hair-dresser going to training and then the workplace, the doctor spends time in school in anticipation of being compensated. It is a job. It is business.